One of the most important insights from my career so far is going from serving myself, to serving others. It’s a pretty difficult transition to make let me explain.
When I first started out, I was all about design and making the coolest products and websites imaginable. My dream was to be award-winning, featured, “design famous”, you name it. I worked with a couple cool agencies and spent over 5 years in freelance just trying to make cool things, but I hit a ceiling.
What was it?
People didn’t want something that was just cool or trendy. In fact, this happened more often:
– Products wouldn’t reliably ship after handoff
– We were having problems with validating the client’s vision
– Users wanted value, and we were just making our clients happy, not successful
– Design was not positioned at the business value level in the company
– We didn’t have a metric to tie our success to way too often
Something needed to change.
For me, I decided that I need to be able to better understand the context of my design process, in order to connect the business goals with the execution. This was not an easy statement to grasp. It meant inverting everything I knew about design service.
Because for that to happen I need to be a more reliable partner, trustworthy, and accountable. It also meant that I needed to learn new skills and humble myself seeing what trustworthy marketing and sales functions look like.
That’s why as a designer in this kind of environment, it’s so critical to be able to lead with your ears, not with your agenda or your vision for someone else’s business. That to me is one of the biggest differences when it comes to seniors and up and comers.
I’m trying to serve more by making my expertise accessible, and talk a lot less. What I can control and be proactive about is publishing my vision and thinking, in order to attract like-minded people.
So as I turn the corner into the next 10 years of my design practice, something that stands out to me are the following:
– How can I give more and provide more value?
– How can I teach others how to make their vision a reality?
– How can I help people get where they’re trying to go?
– How can I find the right people ready to receive it?
Design is about serving others, and it is hard work let me tell you. I thought you just needed to be good at design to be successful in design. Wrong!
What’s your experience like?
About the author
Bryce Thompson is a senior product designer originally from Syracuse, NY, living in Austin, TX.
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Reminding myself as a business operator that somewhere, there is probably a consultant selling $100k+ trust falls and team-building weekend excursions.
You know what business founders hate? Being told their business is a flaming house fire and that you’re the one ready to put it all out!
In another post, I asked why wouldn’t tech companies want to create a Mac OS tool that lets a user set their availability, and paste it as plain text to another person?